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GAGLIOSTRO— A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM.
"Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur." —
"The pseudo- mystic, who deceives the
world because he knows that the world wishes
to be deceived, becomes an attractive subject
for psychological analysis." — Hugo Munster-
berg : Psychology and Life.
MY favorite haunt in Paris is the Quai Voltaire, because of the
delightful book-stalls that line its parapet, presided over by
the quaintest of Norman bouquinistes. The second-hand literature
of the world may be found here. Amid the flotsam and jetsam of
old books tossed upon this inhospitable shore of literary endeavor,
many a precious Elzevir and Aldus has been picked up. On a
pleasant summer day, while strolling along the Quai, I chanced
upon a rare volume, entitled : Vie de Joseph Balsamo, connu sous le
nom de Comte Cagliostro. Traduite d'apres V original it alien, imprime
a la chambre Apostolique; enriche de notes curieuses, et ornde de son
Portrait. Paris et Strasbourg, 1791. Yes, here was the biography
of the famous necromancer of the old regime, the prince of charla-
tans, who foretold the fall of the Bastille, the bosom friend of the
Cardinal de Rohan, and founder of the Egyptian Rite of Free-
masonry. Fascinated with the subject of magic and magicians, I
visited the Bibliotheque Nationale and dipped into the literature
on Cagliostro. Subsequently, at the British Museum, I examined
the rare brochures and old files of the Courier de V Europe for infor-
mation concerning the incomparable necromancer, who made use
of hypnotism, and, like Mesmer, performed many strange feats of
pseudo-magic. Goethe and Catherine II. wrote plays about him,
Alexander Dumas made him the hero of a dozen novels, and Tho-
mas Carlyle philosophised concerning him. To understand Cagli-
ostro, one must understand the times in which he lived and acted
his strange world-drama, its philosophical and religious back-
The arch-enchanter appeared on this mortal scene when the
times were "out of joint." It was the latter part of that strange,
romantic eighteenth century of scepticism and credulity. The old
3£s '" €*£v.
From a painting in the Versailles Historical
After an engraving which served as a frontis-
piece of Balsamo's Life, published in 1791.
Joseph Balsamo, Known as Count Cagliostro.
world like a huge Cheshire cheese was being nibbled away from
within, until little but the rind was left to tell the tale. The rotten
fabric of French society in particular was about to tumble down in
the sulphurous flames of the Revolution, and the very people who
were to suffer most in the calamity were doing their best to assist
in the process of social and political disintegration, seemingly care-
less of the impending storm whose black clouds were slowly gather-
ing. The more sceptical the age, the more credulity extant. Man
begins by denying, and then doubts his doubts. Charles Kingsley
says: "And so it befell, that this eighteenth century, which is usu-
CAGLIOSTRO A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM.
ally held to be the most ' materialistic ' of epochs, was in fact a
most 'spiritualistic' one." The soil was well fertilised for the com-
ing of Cagliostro, the sower of superstition. Every variety of mys-
ticism appealed to the imaginative mind. There were societies of
illuminati, Rosicrucians, alchemists, and Occult Freemasons.
Speaking of the great charlatan, the Anglo-Indian essayist
Greeven says : "It is not enough to say that Cagliostro posed as a
magician, or stood forth as the apostle of a mystic religion. After
LE COMTE DE CAGLIOSTRO 1
M. LE PROCUREUR-GENERAL*
En. preTence dc .M. le Cardinal DI
ROHAN , de la Cotnteffc DE LA
MOTTE, ct autres Co-Accusis.
M. de Cagliostro ne demands que TRAN-
QUILLITY bt SURETY L'HOSPlTALITfi
LBS LUI ASSURE. E XT RAIT a* tint Ltttrt icrite
par M. U Come de Verges Hes \ Minifirt de$
Af aires Etrangirts , A M. GiRARD , Prittur de
Strasbourg i le 13 Mars 1783.
TITLE-PAGE OF THE DEFENSE OF CAGLIOSTRO.
V I E
DE JOSEPH BALSAMO,
CONNO SOUS LE NOM
Extnite de la Procedure instruite
contre luid Rome, en 1790,
Tradiiite d'apres Voriginal italien >
imprim6 k la Chambre Apostolique ;
enriehie de Notes curtaues >• etornee
de son Portrait.
A P ARI S,
Che* pKfROT, libraire , rue Saiat-Vicforj n«. 1 1.
st ▲ STRASBOURG,
Chez Jbam-Gborob Treottel, libraire*
TITLE-PAGE OP THE LIFE OF CAGLIOSTRO.
all, in its mild way, our own generation puts on its evening dress
to worship at the feet of mediums, whose familiar spirits enable
them to wriggle out of ropes in cupboards, or to project cigarette
papers from the ceiling [d la Madame Blavatsky]. We ride our
hobby, however, only when the whim seizes us, and, as soon as it
wearies, we break it in pieces and fling it aside with a laugh. But
Cagliostro impressed himself deeply on the history of his time. He
flashed on the world like a meteor. He carried it by storm. Princes
and nobles thronged to his ' magic operations.' They prostrated
526 THE MONIST.
themselves before him for hours. His horses and his coaches and
his liveries rivalled a king's in magnificence. He was offered, and
refused, a ducal throne. No less illustrious a writer than the Em-
press of Russia deemed him a worthy subject of her plays. Goethe
made him the hero of a famous drama. A French Cardinal and an
English Lord were his bosom companions. In an age which arro-
gated to itself the title of the philosophic, the charm of his eloquence
drew thousands to his Lodges, in which he preached the mysteries
of his Egyptian ritual, as revealed to him by the Grand- Kophta
under the shadow of the pyramids.''
And now for a brief review of his life. Joseph Balsamo, the
son of Peter Balsamo and Felicia Braconieri, both of humble ex-
traction, was born at Palermo, on the eighth day of June, 1743.
He received the rudiments of an education at the Seminary of St.
Roche, Palermo. At the age of thirteen, according to the Inquisi-
tion biographer, he was intrusted to the care of the Father-General
of the Benfratelli, who carried him to the Convent of that Order at
Cartagirone. There he put on the habit of a novice, and, being
placed under the tuition of the apothecary, he learned from him
the first principles of chemistry and medicine. He proved incorri-
gible and was expelled from the monastry in disgrace. Then be-
gan a life of dissipation in the city of Palermo. He was accused
of forging theatre-tickets and a will. Finally he had to flee the city
for having duped a goldsmith named Marano of sixty pieces of
gold, by promising to assist him in unearthing a buried treasure by
magical means. The superstitious Marano entered a cavern situ-
ated in the environs of Palermo, according to instructions given to
him by the enchanter, and discovered, not a chest full af gold, but
a crowd of Balsamo's confederates, who, disguised as infernal spir-
its, administered to him a terrible castigation. Furious at the de
ception, the goldsmith vowed to assassinate the pretended sorcerer
Balsamo, however, took wing to Messina, where he fell in with a
strolling mountebank and alchemist named Althotas, or Altotas,
who spoke a variety of languages. They travelled to Alexandria in
CAGLIOSTRO- — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 527
Egypt, and finally brought up at the island of Malta. Pinto, the
Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, was a searcher after the
philosopher's stone, an enthusiastic alchemist. He extended a
warm reception to the two adventurers, and took them under his
patronage. They remained for some time at Malta, working in the
laboratory of the deluded Pinto. Eventually Althotas died, and
Balsamo went to Naples, afterwards to Rome, where he married a
beautiful ^girdle-maker, named Lorenza Feliciani. Together with a
swindler calling himself the Marchese d'Agliata, he had a series of
disreputable adventures in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Unmasked at one place he fled in hot haste to another. Be-
hold him on his travels with coach-and-four, flunkies and outriders
in gorgeous liveries, vehicles filled with baggage and parapher-
nalia ; all alchemists, magicians, and masons must have parapher-
nalia — retorts, crucibles, alembics, baquets, disguises, mirrors,
draperies, candelabra, sashes, swords, etc., etc. Best of all he
carries with him an iron coffer, which contains the silver, gold, and
jewels reaped from princely dupes. Behold the Arch-Master of
Egyptian Masonry, the hero of the Pyramids, the Rosicrucian
reputed to be able to make himself invisible, fleeing from the police
in fashion prosaic.
In 1776 he arrived in London. He had assumed various aliases
during the course of his life, but now he called himself the "Conte
di Cagliostro," borrowed from an aunt, who bore the name without
the title. His beautiful wife called herself the "Countess Serafina
Feliciani." Cagliostro announced himself as a worker of wonders,
especially in medicine. He carried about two mysterious sub-
stances — a red powder, known as his "Materia Prima," with which
he transmuted baser metals into gold, and his "Egyptian Wine,"
with which he prolonged life.
He dropped hints that he was the son of the Grand-Master
Pinto of Malta and the Princess of Trebizonde. He foretold the
lucky numbers in a lottery and got into difficulty with a gang of
swindlers, which caused him to flee from England to avoid being
imprisoned. While in London he picked up, at a second-hand
book-stall, the mystic writings of an obscure spiritist, one George
528 THE MONIST.
Cofton, or Coston, " which suggested to him the idea of the Egyp-
tian ritual"; and he got himself initiated into a masonic lodge, so
say the pamphleteers. It is asserted that he received the degrees
of the Blue Lodge in the month of April, 1776, in the Esperance
Lodge, No. 369, held at the King's Head Tavern ; but there is no
documentary evidence in support of this statement. It is difficult
to say where Cagliostro was initiated into the degrees of free-
masonry. I have had some correspondence with masonic scholars
in England and on the Continent, but they have been able to shed
no light on the subject. Cagliostro is regarded as the greatest
masonic imposter of the world. His pretensions were bitterly repu-
diated by the English members of the fraternity, and many of the
Continental lodges. But the fact remains that he made thousands
of dupes. As Grand Master of the Egyptian Rite he leaped at once
into fame. His swindling operations were now conducted on a
gigantic scale. He had the entree into the best society. Accord-
ing to him, freemasonry was founded by Enoch and Elias. It was
open to both sexes. Its present form, especially with regard to
the exclusion of women, is a corruption. The true form was pre-
served only by the Grand Kophta, or High Priest of the Egyptians.
By him it was revealed to Cagliostro. The votaries of any religion
are admissible, subject to these conditions, (1) that they believe in
the existence of a God ; (2) that they believe in the immortality of
the soul ; and (3) that they have been initiated into common Ma-
sonry. The candidate must swear an oath of secrecy, and obedi-
ence to the Secret Superiors. It is divided into the usual three
grades of Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Mastermason.
In this system he promised his followers " to conduct them to
perfection, by means of a physical and moral regeneration ; to enable
them by the former (or physical) to find the prime matter, or Phi-
losopher's Stone, and the acacia, which consolidates in man the
forces of the most vigorous youth and renders them immortal ; and
by the latter (or moral) to procure them a Pantagon, which should
restore man to his primitive state of innocence, lost by original
The meetings of the Egyptian lodges were nothing more than
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 529
spiritualistic stances, during which communications were held with
the denizens of the celestial spheres, and many mysteries unfolded
of time and eternity. The medium was a young lad or a girl, who
is in the state of innocence, called the Pupil or the Colomb. Cagli-
ostro declared Moses, Elias, and Christ to be the Secret Superiors
of the Order. "They have attained to such perfection in masonry
that, exalted into higher spheres, they are able to create fresh
worlds for the glory of the Lord. Each is still the head of a secret
No wonder the Egyptian Rite became popular among lovers of
the marvellous, for it promised its votaries, who should attain to
perfection, or adeptship, the power of transmuting baser metals
into gold, or prolonging life indefinitely by means of an elixir;
communion with the spirits of the dead, telepathy, etc.
Cagliostro often boasted of his great age. He claimed to have
been one of the guests at the marriage feast at Cana and to have
witnessed the Crucifixion. From England he went to the Hague,
where he inaugurated a lodge of female masons, over which his
wife presided as Grand Mistress. Throughout Holland he was
received by the lodges with masonic honors — beneath "arches of
steel." He discoursed volubly upon magic and masonry to en-
raptured thousands. In March, 1779, he made his appearance at
Mitau, in the Baltic Provinces, which he regarded as the step-
ping-stone to St. Petersburg. He placed great hope in Catherine
II. of Russia — "the avowed champion of advanced thought." He
hoped to promulgate widely his new and mysterious religious cult
in the land of the Czars, with all the pomp and glamour of the
East. The nobility of Kurland received him with open arms.
Some of them offered to place him on the ducal throne, so he
claimed. He wisely refused the offer. Cagliostro eventually made
a fiasco at Mitau and left in hot haste. In St. Petersburg his
stay was short. Catherine II. was too clever a woman to be his
dupe. She ordered the charlatan to leave Russia, which he forth-
with did. Prospects of Siberia doubtless hastened his departure.
In May, 1780, he turned up at Warsaw. A leading prince lodged
him in his palace. Here Cagliostro " paraded himself in the white
53° THE M ONI ST.
shoes and red heels of a noble." His spirit stances were not a
success. He chose as his clairvoyant a little girl, eight years of
age. After pouring oil into her hands, he closed her in a room,
the door of which was hung with a black curtain. The spectators
sat outside. He interrogated the child concerning the visions that
appeared to her. Among other tests, he requested ithe spectators
to inscribe their names on a piece of paper which he appeared to
burn before their very eyes. Calling to the child that a note would
flutter down at her feet, he requested her to pass it to him through
the door. He passed his hand through the opening of the door to
receive the note. In the next instant he produced a note closed
with a freemason's seal, which contained the signatures of each of
the spectators. This was nothing more than the trick of a presti-
digitateur, such as was performed by Philadelphia and Pinetti, the
two great sleight-of-hand artists of the period. The next day the
clairvoyant confessed the fact that she had been tutored by the
magician, and that the visions were but figments of the imagina-
tion. Cagliostro secured a new subject, a girl of sixteen, but had
the folly to fall in love with his accomplice. In exasperation she
repeated the confession of her predecessor. The Polish nobles
now insisted that Cagliostro invoke the spirit of the Grand Kophta
(the Egyptian High Priest). This seance took place "in a dark
room, on a sort of stage, lit with two candles only, and filled with
clouds of incense." The Grand Kophta appeared. Through the
uncertain light the spectators beheld an imposing figure in white
robes and turban. A snowy beard fell upon its breast.
"What see ye?" cried in a hoarse voice the sage of the pyra-
"I see," replied a sceptical gentleman from the audience,
"that Monsieur le Comte de Cagliostro has disguised himself with
a mask and a white beard."
Everybody recognised the portly figure of the vision. A rush
seemed imminent. Quick as thought, the Grand Kophta, by a
wave of his hands, extinguished the two candles. A sound followed
as the slipping off of a mantle. The tapers were relit. Cagliostro
was observed sitting where the sage had disappeared.
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 53 1
At Wola, in a private laboratory, he pretended to transmute
mercury into silver. The scene must have been an impressive
one. Girt with a freemason's apron, and standing on a black floor
marked with cabalistic symbols in chalk, Cagliostro worked at the
furnace. In the gloom of twilight the proceedings were held. By
a clever substitution of crucibles, Cagliostro apparently accom-
plished the feat of transmutation, but the fraud was detected the
next morning, when one of the servants of the house discovered
the original crucible containing the mercury, which had been cast
upon a pile of rubbish by the pretended alchemist, or one of his
In September, 1780, Cagliostro arrived at Strasburg. Here he
was received with unbounded enthusiasm. He lavished money
right and left, cured the poor without pay, and treated the great
with haughtiness. Just outside of the city he erected a country
villa in Chinese architecture, wherein to hold his Egyptian lodges.
This place was long pointed out as the Cagliostraeum. The peas-
ants are said to have passed it with uncovered heads, such were
their admiration and awe of the great wonder-worker. At Strasburg
resided at that time the Cardinal Louis de Rohan, who was anxious
to meet the magician. Cagliostro, to whom the fact was reported,
said : '< If the Cardinal is sick, he may come to me and I will cure
him; if he is well, he has no further need of me, nor I of him."
Cardinal de Rohan, enormously rich, a libertine, an amateur dab-
bler in alchemy and the occult sciences, was now more anxious
than ever to become acquainted with the charlatan. Such disdain
on the part of a layman was a new experience to the haughty
churchman. His imagination, too, was fired by the stories told of
the enchanter. The upshot of it was that Cagliostro and the Car-
dinal became bosom friends. The prelate invited the juggler and
his wife to live at his episcopal palace.
The Baroness Oberkirch who saw him there says in her mem-
oirs : "No one can ever form the faintest idea of the fervor with
which everybody pursued Cagliostro. He was surrounded, be-
sieged; every one trying to win a glance or a word.... A dozen
ladies of rank and two actresses had followed him in order to con-
532 THE MONIST.
tinue their treatment. ... If I had not seen it, I should never have
imagined that a Prince of the Roman Church, a man in other re-
spects intelligent and honorable, could so far let himself be imposed
upon as to renounce his dignity, his free will, at the bidding oi a.
Cagliostro said to the Cardinal one day: "Your soul is worthy
of mine, and you desire to be the confidant of all my secrets." He
presented the Cardinal with a diamond worth 20,000 francs which
he pretended to have made, the churchman claiming to have been
an eye-witness of the operation. The Cardinal said to the Baron-
ess : "But that is not all ; he makes gold : he has made five or six
thousand francs worth before me, up there in the top of the palace.
I am to have more; I am to have a great deal; he will make me
the richest prince in Europe. These are not dreams, madame ;
they are proofs. And his prophecies that have come true! And
the miraculous cures that he has wrought ! [He really cured the Car-
dinal of the asthma.] I tell you, he is the most extraordinary man,
the sublimest man in the world."
Finally he bade adieu to Strasburg, and set out for Lyons in
great pomp, with lackeys, grooms, guards armed with battle-axes,
and heralds garbed in cloth of gold, blowing trumpets. In the year
1785 he founded at Lyons the Lodge of Triumphant Wisdom, and
made many converts to his mystical doctrines. The fame of his
Egyptian masonry reached Paris and created quite a stir among
the lodges. The chiefs of a masonic convocation assembled in
Paris wrote to him for information concerning his new rite. He
scornfully refused to have anything to do with them, unless they
burned all their masonic books and implements as useless trash
and acknowledged their futility, claiming that his Egyptian Rite
was the only true freemasonry and worthy of cultivation among
men of learning. His next move was to the French Capital.
Cagliostro's greatest triumph was achieved at Paris. A gay
and frivolous aristocracy, mad after new sensations, welcomed the
magician with open arms. The way had been paved for him by
St. Germain and Mesmer. He made his appearance in the French
Capital January 30, 1785. Fantastic stories were circulated about
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 533
him. The Cardinal de Rohan selected and furnished a hotel for
him, and visited him three or four times a week, arriving at dinner
time and remaining until an advanced hour in the night. It was
said that the great Cardinal assisted the sorcerer in his labors, and
many persons spoke of the mysterious laboratory where gold bub-
bled and diamonds sparkled in crucibles brought to a white heat.
But nobody except Cagliostro, and perhaps the Cardinal, ever en-
tered that mysterious laboratory. All that was known for a cer-
tainty was that the apartments were furnished with Oriental splen-
dor, and that Count Cagliostro in a dazzling costume received his
guests with kingly dignity, and gave them his hand to kiss. Upon
a black marble slab in the antechamber carved in golden letters
was the universal prayer of Alexander Pope. " Father of all! in
every age," etc., the parody of which ten years later Paris sang as
a hymn to the Supreme Being.
Says Funck-Brentano in The Diamond Necklace r 1 "At Paris
Cagliostro showed himself what he had been at Strasburg, digni-
fied and reserved. He refused with haughtiness the invitations to
dinner sent to him by the Count of Artois, brother of the king, and
the Duke of Chartres, prince of the blood. He proclaimed himself
chief of the Rosicrucians, who regarded themselves as chosen
beings placed above the rest of mankind, and he gave to his adepts
the rarest pleasure. . ...To all who pressed him with questions as to
who he was, he replied in a grave voice, knitting his eyebrows and
pointing his forefinger towards the sky, ' I am he who is ' ; and as
it was difficult to make out that he was 'he who is not,' the only
thing was to bow with an air of profound deference.
"He possessed the science of the ancient priests of Egypt.
His conversation turned generally on three points : (i) Universal
Medicine, of which the secrets were known to him. (2) Egyptian
Freemasonry, which he wished to restore, and of which he had just
established a parent lodge at Lyons, for Scotch masonry, then pre-
dominant in France, was in his eyes only an inferior, degenerate
form. (3) The Philosopher's Stone, which was to ensure the trans-
mutation of all the imperfect metals into fine gold,
translated by H. S. Edwards, Philadelphia, 1901.
534 THE monist.
"He thus gave to humanity, by his universal medicine, bodily
health; by Egyptian masonry, spiritual health; and by the philos-
opher's stone, infinite wealth." These were his principal secrets,
but he had a host of others, that of predicting the winning num-
bers in lotteries ; prophesying as to the future ; softening marble
and restoring it to its pristine hardness ; of giving to cotton the
lustre and softness of silk, which has been re-invented in our day
by a chemical process.
Among the many. stories told of Cagliostro, that of the supper
in the hotel of the Rue Saint Claude, where the ghosts made merry,
still holds the record. Six guests and the host took their places at
a round table upon which there were thirteen covers. Each guest
pronounced the name of the dead man whose spirit he wished to
appear at the banquet table. Cagliostro, concentrating his mys-
terious forces, gave the invitation in a solemn and commanding
tone. One after another the six guests appeared. They were the
Due de Choiseul, Voltaire, d'Alembert, Diderot, the Abbe de Voi-
senon, and Montesquieu.
"When the living diners recovered their breath, the conversa-
tion began, but, unfortunately for the great ghosts, the record of
their conversation makes them talk stupid nonsense. Perhaps this
may be taken as evidence of the theory that a man loses his head
when he dies. At all events, the story created a sensation in Paris.
It reached the court, and one evening, when the conversation
turned upon the banquet of the ghosts, the king frowned, shrugged
his shoulders, and resumed his game of cards. The queen became
indignant, and forbade the mention of the name of the charlatan in
her presence. Nevertheless, some of the light-headed ladies of the
court burned for an introduction to the superb sorcerer. They
begged Lorenza Feliciani to get him to give them a course of lec-
tures or lessons in magic to which no gentlemen were to be ad-
mitted. Lorenza replied that he would consent, provided there
were thirty-six pupils. The list was made up in a day, and a week
afterward the fair dames got their first lesson. But they talked of
it, and of course the story got loose. This caused another scandal,
and consequently the first lesson was the last."
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 535
Cagliostro's Egyptian Rite of Masonry was well received in
Paris, especially the lodge for ladies, which was presided over by
the beautiful Lorenza, his wife. It was appropriately called Isis,
Among the members of this female lodge were the Countesses de
Brienne, Dessalles, de Polignac, de Brissac, de Choiseul, d'Espin-
chal, the Marchioness d'Avrincourt, and Mmes. de Lom£nie, de
Genlis, de Bercy, de Trevieres, etc.
Cagliostro lived like a lord, thanks to the revenues obtained
from the initiates into his masonic rite, and the money which he
unquestionably received from his dupe, the Cardinal de Rohan,
who was magic mad.
"His wife," says a gossipy writer, "was rarely seen, but by
all accounts she was a woman of bewildering beauty, realising the
Greek lines in all their antique purity and enhanced by an Italian
expression. The most enthusiastic of her so-called admirers were
precisely those who had never seen her face. There were many
duels to decide the question as to the color of her eyes, some con-
tending that they were black, and others that they were blue. Duels
were also fought over a dimple which some admirers insisted was
on the right cheek, while others said that the honor belonged to the
left cheek. She appeared to be no more than twenty years old but
she spoke sometimes of her eldest son, who was for some years a
captain in the Dutch army."
The magician's sojourn in Paris caused the greatest excite-
ment. Prints, medallions, and marble busts of him were to be seen
everywhere. He was called by his admirers "the divine Cagli-
ostro." To one of the old portraits was appended the following
" De l'Ami des Humains reconnaissez les traits :
Tous ses jours sont marque's par de nouveaux bienfaits,
II prolonge la Vie, il secourt Tindigence ;
Le plaisir d'etre utile est seul sa recompense."
Hats and neckties were named after him. In Paris as in Stras-
burg, he gave away large sums of money to the poor and cured
them of their ailments free of charge. His mansion was always
crowded with noble guests. The idle aristocracy could find noth-
ing better to do than attend the spirit stances of the charlatan.
The shades of Voltaire, Rousseau, and other dead celebrities were
summoned from the "vasty deep," impersonated doubtless by
clever confederates in the pay of Cagliostro, often aided by me-
chanical and optical accessories. The art of phantasmagoria, in
which the concave mirror plays a part, was well known to the
enchanter. The Count de Beugnot gives in detail, in his interest-
Bust of Cagliostro.
(In the possession of M. Storelli.)
From Vie de Josef h Balsamo, etc
Paris, 1 791.
ing autobiography, an account of Cagliostro's performances at the
residences of Madame de la Motte and the Cardinal De Rohan.
Abridged by Saint Amand, we have the following statement: "As
a sorcerer, he [Cagliostro] had a cabalistic apparatus. On a table
with a black cloth, on which were embroidered in red the mysteri-
ous signs of the highest degree of the Rosicrucians, there stood the
CAGLIOSTRO A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 537
emblems; little Egyptian figures, old vials filled with lustral wa-
ters, and a crucifix very like, though not the same as, the Chris-
tian's cross; and there, too, Cagliostro placed a glass globe filled
with clarified water. Before the globe he used to place a kneeling
seer ; that is to say, a young woman who, by supernatural powers,
should behold the scenes which were believed to take place in the
water within the magic globe."
In the mysticism of the twentieth century this would be called
Crystal Vision or Crystal Gazing, Cagliostro added to the mis e- en-
scene of the occasion by appearing in gorgeous robes. He would
make mesmeric passes over the youthful clairvoyant, and summon
the geniuses of the earth, air, and water, and the angels of the
spheres, to enter the globe. "The seer became convulsed, she
ground her teeth, and exhibited every sign of nervous excitement.
At last she saw and began to speak. What was taking place that
very moment hundreds of miles from Paris, in Vienna or St. Peters-
burg, in Austria or Pekin," etc. "It would be hard," says Count
Beugnot, "to believe that such scenes could have taken place in
France at the end of the eighteenth century ; yet they aroused
great interest among people of importance in the Court and the
An interesting pen portrait of Cagliostro is contained in Beu-
gnot's memoirs. The Count met the enchanter for the first time at
the house of Madame de la Motte :
"Cagliostro was of medium height, rather stout, with an olive
complexion, a very short neck, round face, two large eyes on a
level with the cheeks, and a broad, turned-up nose. . . .His hair was
dressed in a way new to France, being divided into several small
tresses that united behind the head, and were twisted up into what
was then called a club.
"He wore on that day an iron gray coat of French make, with
gold lace, a scarlet waistcoat trimmed with broad Spanish lace, red
breeches, his sword looped to the skirt of his coat, and a laced hat
with a white feather, the latter a decoration still required of mounte-
banks, tooth-drawers and other medical practitioners, who pro-
claim and retail their drugs in the open air. Cagliostro set off this
53^ THE MONIST.
costume by lace ruffles, several valuable rings, and shoe-buckles
which were, it is true, of antique design, but bright enough to be
taken for real diamonds .... The face, attire, and the whole man
made an impression on me that I could not prevent. I listened to
the talk. He spoke some sort of medley, half French and half Ital-
ian, and made many quotations which might be Arabic, but which
he did not trouble himself to translate. I could not remember any
more of [his conversation] than that the hero had spoken of heaven,
of the stars, of the Great Secret, of Memphis, of the high-priest, of
transcendental chemistry, of giants and monstrous beasts, of a city
ten times as large as Paris, in the middle of Africa, where he had
Cagliostro was at the height of his fame, when suddenly he
was arrested and thrown into the Bastille. He was charged with
complicity in the affair of the Diamond Necklace. Here is his own
account of the arrest: "On the 22d of August, 1786, a commis-
sarie, an exempt, and eight policemen entered my home. The pil-
lage began in my presence. They compelled me to open my secre-
tary. Elixirs, balms, and precious liquors all became the prey of
the officers who came to arrest me. I begged the commissarie to
permit me to use my carriage. He refused ! The agent took me
by the collar. He had pistols, the stocks of which appeared from
the pockets of his coat. They hustled me into the street and
scandalously dragged me along the boulevard all the way to the
rue Notre- Dame du-Nazareth. There a carriage appeared which I
was permitted to enter to take the road to the Bastille.'*
What was this mysterious affair of the Diamond Necklace
which led to his incarceration in a state prison? In brief the story
is as follows :
The court jeweler, M. Bohmer, had in his possession a magnifi-
cent diamond necklace, valued at 1,800,000 livres originally de-
signed for the ivory neck of the fair but frail Madame Du Barry,
mistress of Louis XV. But Louis — "the well beloved" — died be-
fore the necklace was completed ; the Sultana went into exile, and
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 539
the unlucky jeweler found himself with the diamond collar on his
hands instead of on the neck of the Du Barry. He was obliged to
dispose of it, or become a bankrupt. Twice he offered it to Marie
Antoinette, but she refused to purchase it, or permit her husband,
Louis XVI., to do so, alleging that France had more urgent need
of war ships than jewels. Poor Bohmer, distracted at her refusal
to buy the necklace, threatened to commit suicide. The matter
became food for gossip among the quid nuncs of the Court. Un-
fortunate necklace, it led to one of the most romantic intrigues of
history, involving in its jeweled toils a Queen, a cardinal, an ad-
venturess, a courtesan, and a conjurer. Living at the village of
Versailles at the time was the Countess de la Motte, an ex-mantua
maker, and a descendant of an illegitimate scion of the Valois fam-
ily, who had committed a forgery under Louis XIII. Her husband
was a sort of gentleman-soldier in the gendarmerie ; a gambler and
a rake. Madame de la Motte- Valois, boasting of the royal blood
that flowed in her veins, had many times petitioned the King to
assist her. A small pension had been granted, but it was totally
inadequate to supply her wants. She wished also to gain a foot-
hold at Versailles and flutter amidst the butterfly-countesses of the
Oeil de Boeuf. Looking about for a noble protector, some one who
could advance her claims, she pitched upon the Cardinal de Rohan
who was Grand Almoner of the King. He supplied her with money,
but accomplished very little else for her. Though Grand Almoner
and a Cardinal, Louis de Rohan was non persona grata at the court.
He was cordially detested by Marie Antoinette not only because of
his dissolute habits, but on account of slanderous letters he had
written about her when she was still a Dauphiness. This coldness
on the part of the Queen caused the Cardinal great anguish, as he
longed to be Prime Minister, and sway the destinies of France
through the Queen like a second Mazarin. More than that he
loved the haughty Antoinette. All these things he confided to
Madame de la Motte. When the story of Bohmer and the Diamond
Necklace was noised abroad, Madame de la Motte conceived a plot
of wonderful audacity. She determined to possess the priceless
collar and make the Cardinal the medium of obtaining it. She de-
54-0 THE MONIST.
luded the Cardinal into the belief that she was in the Queen's con-
fidence. She asserted that Marie Antoinette had at last yielded to
her pleadings for recognition as a descendant of the Valois and
granted her social interviews. She confided to him that the Queen
secretly desired to be reconciled to him. She became the pretended
" go-between " between the Cardinal and the Queen, and delivered
numerous little notes to him, signed "Antoinette de France."
Finally she arranged an interview for him, at night, in the park of
Versailles, ostensibly with the Queen, but in reality with a young
girl named D'Oliva who bore a remarkable resemblance to Marie
Antoinette. The D'Oliva saw him only for a few moments and
presented him with a rose. The Cardinal was completely duped.
"Madame de la Motte persuaded him," says Greeven, "into the
belief that the Queen was yearning for the necklace, but, as she
could not afford it, he could assure himself of her favor by becom-
ing security for the payment. She produced a forged instrument,
which purported to have been executed by the Queen, and upon
which he bound himself as security. ,, The necklace was delivered
to the Cardinal, who handed it over to Madame de la Motte, to be
given to Marie Antoinette.
But, asks the curious reader, what has all this to do with Cag-
liostro? What part had he to play in the drama? This: When
the Comtesse de la Motte was arrested, she attempted to throw the
blame of the affair upon the Cardinal and Cagliostro. She alleged
that they had summoned her into one of their mystic seances.
"After the usual hocus-pocus, the Cardinalmade over to her a cas-
ket containing the diamonds without their setting, and directed her
to deliver them to her husband, with instructions to dispose of
them at once in London. Upon this information Cagliostro and
his wife were arrested. He was detained, without hearing, from
the 22d of August, 1785, until the 30th of January, 1786, when he
was first examined by the Judges, and he was not set at liberty till
the 1st of June, 1786."
The trial was the most famous in the annals of the Parliament.
Cagliostro and the Cardinal were acquitted with honor. The
Countess de la Motte was sentenced to be exposed naked, with a
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CkARLATANISM.
rope around her neck, in front of the Conciergerie, and to be pub-
licly whipped and branded by the hangman with the letter V ( Vo-
leuse — thief} on each shoulder. She was further sentenced to life
imprisonment in the prison for abandoned women. She escaped
from the latter place, however, to London, where she was killed
on the 23d day of August, 1791, by a fall from a window. The
Count de la Motte was sentenced in contumacium. He was safe in
London at the time and had disposed of the diamonds to various
dealers. The d'Oliva was set free without punishment. The man
who forged the letter for Madame de la Motte, her secretary Vil-
Madamb db la Mottb's Escape. (After an English print of 1790.)
lette, was banished for life. Countess Cagliostro was honorably
The Cardinal was unquestionably innocent, as was fully estab-
lished at the trial. His overweening ambition and his mad love
for Marie Antoinette had rendered him an easy dupe to the machi-
nations of the De la Mottes. But how was it with Cagliostro? The
essayist Greeven, in an article published a few years ago in the
Calcutta Review, seems to think that the alchemist was more or
less mixed up in the swindle. He sums up the suspicions as fol-
lows: "First, his [Cagliostro's] immense influence over the Cardi-
nal, and his intimate relations with him, render it impossible that
542 THE MONIST.
so gigantic a fraud could have been practiced without his knowl-
edge. Second, he was in league with the Countess for the purpose of
deceiving the Cardinal, in connection with the Queen." M. Frantz
Funck-Brentano, in his admirable history of the Diamond Neck-
lace, based upon documents recently discovered in Paris [page
283, Edwards's translation, Philadelphia, 1901]: "The idea of im-
plicating Cagliostro in the intrigue had been conceived, as Georgel
says, with diabolical cunning. If Jeanne de Valois had in the first
instance made a direct accusation against Cardinal de Rohan, no
one would have believed in it. But there was something mysteri-
ous and suspicious about Cagliostro, and it was known what influ-
ence he exercised on the mind of the Cardinal. 'The alchemist,'
she suggested, 'took the necklace to pieces in order to increase by
means of it the occult treasures of an unheard-of fortune.' 'To
conceal his theft,' says Doillot [Madame de la Motte's lawyer], 'he
ordered M. de Rohan, in virtue of the influence he had established
over him, to sell some of the diamonds and to get a few of them
mounted at Paris through the Countess de la Motte, and to get
more considerable quantities mounted and sold in England by her
husband.'. . . .Cagliostro had one unanswerable argument : the Car-
dinal had made his agreement with the jewelers on the 29th of
January, 1785, and he, Cagliostro, had only arrived in Paris at
nine in the evening of the 30th."
Cagliostro refuted the charges with wonderful sangfroid. He
appeared in court "proud and triumphant in his coat of green silk
embroidered with gold." "Who are you? and whence do you
come?" asked the attorney for the crown.
"I am an illustrious traveller," he answered bombastically.
Every one present laughed.
Cagliostro drove in triumph from the court house to his resi-
dence, after hearing his order of discharge. His coach was pre-
ceded by "a fantastic cripple, who distributed medicines and pres-
ents among the crowd." He found the Rue St. Claude thronged
with friends and sympathisers, anxious to welcome him home. At
this period revolutionary sentiments were openly vented by the
people of France. The throne was being undermined by the phi-
CAGLIOSTRO A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 543
losophers and politicians. Any excuse was made to revile Louis
XVI. and his queen. Scurrilous pamphlets were published declar-
ing that Marie Antoinette was equally guilty with the de la Mottes
in the necklace swindle. Cagliostro consequently was regarded as
a martyr to the liberties of man. His arrest under the detested
lettre-de-cachet, upon mere suspicion, and long incarceration in the
Bastille without trial, were indeed flagrant abuses of justice and
gave his sympathisers a whip with which to lash the King and
His wife had been liberated some time before him. She met
him at the door of the temple of magic, and he swooned in her
arms. Whether this was a genuine swoon or not, it is impossible
to say, for Cagliostro was ever a poseur and never neglected an op-
portunity for theatrical effect and self-advertisement. He accused
the Marquis de Launay, Governor of the Bastille — he who had his
head chopped off and elevated upon a pike a few years later — of
criminal misappropriation of his effects, money, medicines, alchem-
ical powders, elixirs, etc., etc., which he valued at a high sum.
The Commissioner of Police who arrested him was also included in
this accusation. He appealed to his judges, who referred him to
the Civil Courts. But the case never came to trial. The day after
his acquittal he was banished from France by order of the King.
At St. Denis, "his carriage drove between two dense and silent
lines of well-wishers, while, as his vessel cleared from the port of
Boulogne, five thousand persons knelt down on the shore to re-
ceive his blessing. " He went direct to London. No sooner there,
than he filed his suit against the Marquis de Launay, "appealing,
of course, to the hearts of all Frenchmen as a lonely and hunted
exile." The French Government, through its ambassador, granted
him leave to come in person to Paris to prosecute his suit, assuring
him of safe conduct and immunity from all prosecution, legal as
well as social. But Cagliostro refused this offer, hinting that it was
merely a stratagem to decoy him to Paris and reincarcerate him in
a dungeon. No clear-headed, impartial person believed that the
Marquis de Launay was guilty of the charge laid at his door. What-
ever else he may have been, tyrannical, cold, unsympathetic, the
544 THE monist.
Governor of the -Bastille was a man of honor and above committing
a theft. In fact, Cagliostro's accusation was a trumped-up affair,
designed to annoy and keep open "a running sore in the side of
the French authorities. ,, Notoriety is the life of charlatanry. Cagli-
ostro was no common quack, as his history shows. He next pub-
lished a pamphlet, dated June 20th, 1786, prophesying that the
Bastille would be demolished and converted into a public prome-
nade ; and, that a ruler should arise in France, who should abolish
lettres de cachet and convoke the Estates- General. In a few years
the prediction was fulfilled. Poor De Launay lost his life, where-
upon Cagliostro issued a pamphlet exulting over the butchery of
his enemy. In London, Cagliostro became the bosom friend of
the eccentric Lord George Gordon. Eventually he became deeply
involved in debt, and was obliged to pawn his effects. He was un-
able to impress the common-sense, practical English with his pre-
tentions to animal magnetism, transcendental medicine, and occult-
ism. One of his vaunted schemes was to light up the streets of
London with sea water, which by his magic power he proposed to
change into oil. The newspapers ridiculed him, especially the
Courier de V Europe, published and edited by M. Morande, who had
"picked up some ugly facts about the swindler's early career. ,,
The freemasons repudiated him with scorn, and would have noth-
ing to do with his Egyptian Rite. There is a rare old print, a copy
of which may be seen in the Scottish Rite Library, Washington,
D. C, which depicts the unmasking of the famous imposter at the
Lodge of Antiquity, published Nov. 21, 1786, at London. It was
engraved by an eye-witness of the scene. In company with some
French gentlemen, Cagliostro visited the Lodge one evening. At
the banquet which followed the working of the degree, a certain
worthy brother named Mash, an optician, was called upon to sing.
Instead of a post-prandial ditty, he gave a clever imitation of a
quack doctor selling nostrums, and dilating bombastically upon
the virtues of his elixirs, balsams (Balsamos), and cordials. Cagli-
ostro was not slow in perceiving that he was the target for Brother
Mash's shafts of ridicule. His "front of brass/' as Carlyle has it,
was beaten in, his pachyderm was penetrated by the barbed arrows
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM.
of the ingenious optician's wit. He left the hall in high dudgeon,
followed by the jeers of the assembled masons. Alas, for the Grand
Kophta, no "vaults of steel," no masonic honors for him in London.
The verse appended to the engraving of Cagliostro and the
English lodge is as follows :
• ' Born, God knows where, supported, God knows bow,
From whom descended, difficult to know.
Lord Crop adopts him as a bosom friend,
And manly dares his character defend.
546 THE MONIST.
This self-dubb'd Count, some few years since became
A Brother Mason in a borrow'd name ;
For names like Seville numerous he bears,
And Proteus like, in fifty forms appears.
' Behold in me (he says) Dame Nature's child,
• Of Soul benevolent, and Manners mild ;
' In me the guiltless Acharat behold,
• Who knows the mystery of making Gold ;
• A feeling heart I boast, a conscience pure,
' I boast a Balsam every ill to cure ;
• My Pills and Powders, all disease remove,
•Renew your vigor, and your health improve.'
This cunning part the arch imposter acts,
And thus the weak and credulous attracts,
But now, his history is rendered clear,
The arrant hypocrite, and quack appear.
First as Balsams, he to paint essay'd,
But only daubing, he renounc'd the trade.
Then, as a Mountebank, abroad he stroll'd
And many a name on Death's black list enroll'd.
Three times he visited the British shore,
And every time a different name he bore.
The brave Alsatians he with ease cajol'd
By boasting of Egyptian forms of old.
The self -same trick he practis'd at Bourdeaux,
At Strasburg, Lyons, and at Paris too.
But fate for Brother Mash reserv'd the task
To strip the vile impostor of his mask,
May all true Masons his plain tale attend
And Satire's lash to fraud shall put an end."
To escape the harpies of the law, who threatened him with a
debtor's prison, Cagliostro fled to his old hunting-ground, the Con-
tinent, leaving la petite Comtesse to follow him as best she could.
But the game was played out. The police had by this time become
fully cognisant of his impostures. He was forbidden to practise
his peculiar system of medicine and masonry in Austria, Germany,
Russia, and Spain. Drawn like a needle to the lodestone rock, he
went to Rome. Foolish Grand Kophta ! Freemasonry was a cap-
ital offence in the dominions of the Pope. One lodge, however,
existed. Says Greeven : "There is reason to suppose that it was
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 547
tolerated only because it enabled the Holy Church to spy out the
movements of freemasons in general." Cagliostro attempted to
found one of his Egyptian lodges, but met with no success. His
exchequer became depleted. He appealed to the National As-
sembly of France to revoke the order of banishment, on the ground
of "his services to the liberty of France." Suddenly on the evening
of Dec. 27, 1789, he and his wife were arrested and incarcerated in
the fortress of San Angelo. His highly-prized manuscript of Egyp-
tian masonry was seized, together with all his papers and corre-
spondence. He was tried by the Holy Inquisition. It must have
been an impressive scene — that gloomy council chamber with the
cowled inquisitors. Cagliostro's wife appeared against him and
lifted the veil of Isis that hid the Mysteries of the Charlatan's
career. The Egyptian manuscript of unknown George Coston, the
seals, the masonic regalia and paraphernalia were mute and damn-
ing evidences of his guilt. He was indeed a freemason, even
though he were not an alchemist, a soothsayer, the Grand Kophta
of the Pyramids. Cagliostro's line of defence was that "he had
labored throughout to lead back freemasons, through the Egyp-
tian ritual to Catholic orthodoxy." He appeared at first to be con-
trite. But it availed him nothing. Finding his appeals for mercy
useless, he adopted another tack, and told impossible stories of his
adventures. He harangued the Holy Fathers for hours, despite
their threats and protests. Nothing could stop his loquacious
tongue from wagging. Among other Munchausen tales, he related
how he had visited the Illuminati of Frankfurt, when on his way to
Strasburg. In an underground cavern, the secret Grand Master of
Templars "showed him his signature under a horrible form of oath,
traced in blood, and pledged him to destroy all despots, especially
in Rome." Finally, he was condemned to death as a heretic, sor-
cerer, and freemason, but Pope Pius VI., on the 21st of March,
1791, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. His manu-
script was declared to be "superstitious, blasphemous, wicked, and
heretical," and was ordered to be burnt by the common hangman,
together with his masonic implements. From San Angelo, Cagli-
ostro was conducted to the Castle of San Leon, Urbino. Here, in
54-8 THE MONIST.
a subterranean dungeon, he fretted away his life in silence and
darkness, until 1795, when he died. A French inspector of Italian
prisons, who visited the fortress of San Leon, March 6, 1795, re-
ported that he saw a sentence and autograph scribbled upon the
dungeon wall by Cagliostro. No one knows where the arch-
enchanter is buried. His wife ended her days in a convent.
In the Inquisition biography some curious letters to Cagliostro
from his masonic correspondents in France are published. They
evidence the profound respect, one might almost say blind worship,
with which he was regarded by his disciples.
The masonic lodge at Rome was disrupted shortly after Cagli-
ostro's arrest. The Sbirri of the Holy Office pounced down upon
it, but the birds had flown, taking with them their most important
papers. Father Marcellus says that among the members of this
Roman lodge were an Englishman and an American.
And so endeth the career of Cagliostro, one of the most roman-
tic of history. His condemnation as a sorcerer and freemason has
invested him with "the halo of a religious martyr, of which perhaps
no one was less deserving.''
Among his effects was found a peculiar seal, upon which were
engraved the mysterious letters "L. P. D." These letters are sup-
posed to stand for the Latin sentence, "Lilia pedibus destrue" which
translated signifies: " Tread the lilies under foot," — alluding to
the overthrow of the French monarchy.
Many theosophical writers have placed implicit belief in the
mission of Cagliostro as the secret agent of an occult brotherhood
working for human liberty and regeneration.
Taking this idea for a theme, Alexander the Great — he of the
pen, not of the sword — has built up a series of improbable though
highly romantic novels about the personality of Cagliostro, entitled
The Memoirs of a Physician, and The Diamond Necklace. He makes
him the Grand Kophta of a society of Illuminati, or exalted Free-
masons, which extends throughout the world. Pledged to the
spread of equality, fraternity, and liberty among men, the Brother-
hood seeks to overthrow the thrones of Europe, symbols of oppres-
sion and persecution. The Memoirs of a Physician opens with a re-
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 549
markable prologue, descriptive of a solemn conclave of the secret
superiors of the Order. The meeting takes place at night in a ruined
chateau located in a mountainous region near the old city of Stras-
burg. Cagliostro reveals his identity as the Arch-master of the Fra-
ternity, the Grand Kophta, who is in possession of the secrets of
the pyramids. He takes upon himself the important task of " tread-
ing the lilies under foot" and bringing about the destruction of the
monarchy in France, the storm-centre of Europe. He departs on
his mission. Like Torrini, the conjurer, he has a miniature house
on wheels drawn by two Flemish horses. One part of the vehicle
is fitted up as an alchemical laboratory, wherein the sage Althotas
makes researches for the elixir of life. Arriving at the chateau of
a nobleman of the ancien rdgime, Cagliostro magnetises a young
lady and causes her to see in a carafe of water the death of Louis
XVI. and Marie Antoinette by the guillotine. Aided by the free-
masons of Paris, Cagliostro sets to work to encompass the ruin of
the throne and to bring on the great Revolution. Dumas in this re-
markable series of novels passes in review before us Jean Jacques
Rousseau, Cardinal de Rohan, Louis XV. and XVI., Marie Antoin-
ette, Comtesse du Barry, Madame de la Motte, Dan ton, Marat, and
a host of people famous in the annals of history. Cagliostro is ex-
alted from a charlatan into an apostle of liberty endowed with
many noble qualities. He is represented as possessing occult pow-
ers, and his stances are depicted as realities. Dumas himself was
a firm believer in spiritualism, and hobnobbed with the American
medium Daniel D. Home.
Cagliostro^ house in the Marais quarter, Paris, still remains —
a memorial in stone of its former master. In the summer of 1899
the Courier des £tats Urn's, New York, contained an interesting ar-
ticle on this mansion. I quote as follows :
" Cagliostro's house still stands in Paris. Few alterations have been made in
it since the days of its glories and mysteries ; and one may easily imagine the effect
which it produced in the night upon those who gazed upon its strange pavilions
and wide terraces when the lurid lights of the alchemist's furnaces streamed
through the outer window blinds. The building preserves its noble lines in spite
of modern additions and at the same time has a weird appearance which produces
an almost depressing effect. But this doubtless comes from the imagination, be-
cause the house was not built by Cagliostro ; he simply rented it. When he took
up his quarters in it, it was the property of the Marquise d'Orvillers. Cagliostro
made no changes in it, except perhaps a few temporary interior additions for the
machines which he used in his stances in magic.
"The plan of the building may well be said to be abnormal. The outer gate
opens upon the rue Saint Claude at the angle of the boulevard Beaumarchais. The
courtyard has a morose and solemn aspect. At the end under a flagged porch
there is a stone staircase worn by time, but it still preserves its old iron railing.
On looking at that staircase, one cannot help thinking of the hosts of beautiful
women, attracted by curiosity to the den of the sorcerer, and terrified at what they
Courtyard of Cagliostro's House in Paris (Present Condition).
imagined they were about to see, who placed their trembling hands upon that old
railing. Here we can evoke the shade of Mme. de la Motte running up the steps,
with her head covered with a cloak, and the ghosts of the valets of Cardinal de
Rohan sleeping in the driver's seat of the carriage with a lantern at their feet,
while their master, in company with the Great Kophta, is occupied with necro-
mancy, metallurgy, cabala, or one irocri tics, which, as everybody knows, constitute
the four elementary divisions of Cagliostro's art.
"A secret stairway now walled up ran near the large one to the second story,
where its traces are found ; and a third stairway, narrow and tortuous, still exists
at the other end of the building on the boulevard side. It is in the center of the
CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 55 1
wall, in complete darkness, and leads to the old salons now cut into apartments,
the windows of which look out upon a terrace. Below, with their mouldering
doors, are the carriage house and the stable, — the stable of Djerid, the splendid
black horse of Lorenza Feliciani."
To verify the above statement, I wrote to M. Alfred de Ricaudy
(an authority on archaeological matters and editor of L' Echo du
Public, Paris), who responded as follows, Jan. 13, 1900:
"The house still exists just as it was in the time of Cagliostro [the exterior].
Upon the boulevard, contiguous to the mansion, there was formerly the shop of
one Camerlingue, a bookseller, now occupied by an upholsterer. On January 30,
1789, Cagliostro took up his residence in this quaint old house. It was then No.
30 Rue St. Claude, at the corner of the Boulevard Saint Antoine, afterwards the
Boulevard Beaumarchais. The Marquise d'Orvillers was the owner of the premises
occupied by the thaumaturgist of the eighteenth century. Her father, M. de Cha-
vigny, captain in the royal navy, had built this house on ground acquired in 17 19
from Mme. de Harlay, who had inherited it from her father, le Chevalier Bouche-
rat. (See Lefeuve, Old House of Paris, Vol. IV., issue 51, page 24, published b>
Achille Faure, Paris, 1863.)"
Cagliostro's house is now No. 1, the numbering of the street
having been altered during the reign of Louis Philippe. Says M.
de Ricaudy :
' ' The numbering originally began at the Rue Saint Louis, now Rue de Tu-
renne, in which is situated the church Saint Dennis du St. Sacrement. When the
houses were re-numbered with reference to the direction of the current of the
Seine (under Louis Philippe), the numbers of the Rue St. Claude, which is paral-
lel to the river, began at the corner of the boulevard, and in that way the former
number 30 became number 1."
The sombre old mansion has had a peculiar history. Cagli-
ostro locked the doors of the laboratories and seance-rooms on the
13th of June, 1788, on the occasion of his exile from France. All
during the great Revolution the house remained clcsed and intact.
Eighteen years of undisturbed repose passed away. The dust set-
tled thick upon everything ; spiders built their webs upon the gilded
ceilings of the salons. Finally, in the Napoleonic year 18 10, the
doors of the temple of magic and mystery were unfastened, and the
furniture and rare curios, the retorts and crucibles, belonging to the
dead conjurer were auctioned off. An idle crowd of curious quid
nuncs gathered to witness the sale, and pry about. Says Ricaudy :
552 THE MONIST.
"The household furniture, belongings, etc., of the illustrious adventurer were
not sold until five years after his death. The sale took place in the apartment
which he had occupied, and was by order of the municipal government. An ex-
amination revealed many curious acoustical and optical arrangements constructed
in the building by Cagliostro. By the aid of these contrivances and that of well-
trained confederates, he perpetrated many supposedly magical effects, summoned
the shades of the dead," etc. (See Dictionnaire de la France. By A. G. de St.
Fargeau, Vol. III., page 245. Paris, 185 1.)
The writer of the article in the Courier des j&tats Unis further
' ' Since the auctioning of Cagliostro's effects the gloomy house of the Rue St.
Claude has had no history. Ah, but I am mistaken. In 1855 some repairs were
made. The old carriage door was removed, and the one that took its place was
taken from the ruins of the Temple. There it stands to-day with its great bolts
and immense locks. The door of the prison of Louis XVI. closes the house of
M. de Ricaudy verifies this statement about the door of the
mansion. The student of Parisian archaeology will do well to con-
sult M. de Ricaudy, as well as M. Labreton, 93 Boulevard Beau-
marchais, who possesses forty volumes relating to the history of
the Marais Quarter. Last but not least is the indefatigable student
of ancient landmarks of Paris, M. G. Lenotre, author of Paris rd-
volutionaire, vieilles tnaisons, vieux papiers.
My friend, M. FeUicien Trewey, who visited the place in the
summer of 1901, at my request reported to me that it had been
converted into a commercial establishment. A grocer, a feather
curler, and a manufacturer of cardboard boxes occupied the build-
ing, oblivious of the fact that the world-renowned Cagliostro once
lived there, plying his trade of sorcerer, mesmerist, physician, and
.mason, like a true chevalier d'industrie. Alas ! the history of these
old houses ! They have their days of splendid prosperity, followed
by shabby gentility and finally by sordid decay, — battered, blear-
eyed, and repulsive-looking.
Henry Ridgely Evans.
Washington, D. C.